Huskies open football season with 34-24 win over 5A Redmond

Brett King

For The New Era

The Sweet Home High School football team opened the season with a bang, downing Redmond 34-24 in a game that the Huskies dominated for much of the second and third quarters – enough to build a lead that the Panthers couldn’t overcome.

The offensive output was nearly the reverse of Sweet Home’s last face-off with the Panthers, a 35-0 loss at Redmond to open the 2012 season.

Sweet Home’s new pistol offense worked in fits and starts as the Huskies figured out how to communicate and make it produce for them as they rolled up a total of 327 yards.

Coach Dustin Nichol said he was pleased with his players’ performance.

“A lot of heart, desire and hard work went in to that, and they came up with the victory,” he said.

Redmond was clearly not the team that steamrolled Sweet Home at home last year, but even with 31 seniors gone to graduation, the Panthers were definitely bigger all the way around, though quarterback Bunker Parrish was a 5-10, 175-pound freshman who moved from Oklahoma.

“They were a different team than they were last year, but that still doesn’t mean they weren’t a good football team,” Nichol said. “Those guys were big. They were fast. On paper, if you just put weight, stuff like that, should have beat us. We had 13, 14 guys on the bench. They had 34.

“Our kids played well under the circumstances that this was their first game, and we only have two returning varsity starters on offense, three on defense. That right there tells you there’s a big difference.”

Sweet Home got off to a slow start, giving up a punt return for a touchdown early in the first quarter and going three-and-out early on, as the Huskies struggled to get some rhythm going. But the Huskies’ defense kept Redmond out of the end zone otherwise, and things started rolling for Sweet Home early in the second quarter when Brandon Keenon snaked his way into the end zone from 15 yards out for the Huskies’ first touchdown of the season and a 7-6 lead after Hunter Jutte’s kick.

Jutte, a junior, wound up with three touchdown catches for the night, all thrown by senior quarterback Cole Horner,. Jutte helped the Huskies a 14-6 lead with a 40-yard TD reception. Horner finished eight of 21 for 120 yards through the air.

“Our new offense has been working a lot better,” Jutte said. “We get to throw a lot more passes, which I really like. I get the chance to score a lot more.”

Horner connected with Jutte on a 41-yard bomb late in the first half to give Sweet Home a 20-6 lead at halftime, to which the Panthers responded with a score of their own to make it 20-12 at the half.

Redmond was visibly struggling early in the second half, whistled for multiple penalties and having difficulties getting a sustained drive going. The Panthers ran the opening kickoff back for what appeared to be a touchdown, but it was called back on a holding penalty.

With six minutes left in the third quarter, senior running back Spencer Knight, who had 13 carries for 98 yards, plowed into the end zone from the one-yard line after bringing the Huskies to that point with a 55-yard run around the left end.

“I really wanted to score that carry,” Knight said. “I just tried not to get tackled and just kept on trying to run faster. “I really like our new offense.”

The Panthers’ problems were compounded after Jutte pulled down a pass from Horner and sprinted in for a 15-yard score to give Sweet Home a 34-12 lead.

Things got a little sloppy for both teams late in the third quarter, with penalties called both ways for various infractions, and two or three Husky starters on the sidelines with cramps.

As the final period began, the Panthers got their second wind, urged on by their sideline, closing the gap with a 14-yard rushing touchdown with 11:50 to play, then coming back with another to cap a 76-yard drive with 4:07 left.

Sweet Home dug in and put together a short drive of its own to run down the clock, then Horner took a couple of knees to ice the win.

Sweet Home held Redmond to 228 yards on 42 rushing attempts and three touchdowns on the ground, and Parrish was two for 10 for four yards in the air.

“Right now we’re a lot stronger defensively than we are offensively,” Nichol said. “It’s really just a matter of experience. We have a lot of guys on the line with little to absolutely no varsity playing time. It takes a little for the new guys to understand the game speed. So during the first quarter they were really just getting acclimated to what real game speed was.”

Veteran lineman Austin Horner agreed.

“After the first quarter and as the game went on our defense sped way up,” he said, “The new kids just had to get some of that rust knocked off of them.”

Nichol said he liked what he saw from some of the Huskies’ new offense, but “there are parts that we need quite a bit of help on.” Those included confusion, miscommunication and difficulty in adjusting from the practice field to the game, he said.

“In practice we look like world-beaters. It’s not going against other teams. It’s not game speed. You really don’t know until you get in a game.”

Cole Horner’s play on offense was a big positive, he said, particularly the fact that the senior quarterback was able to take advantage of the benefits of the pistol. Horner finished with eight completions in 21 pass attempts for 120 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, the latter coming early in the game.

“Cole under quite a bit of pressure. He would have been under more pressure if he had been under center. This gave him more time time to check out his receivers. The fact that he was able to throw three touchdowns, though he also threw three picks, was a benefit of that.”

The Huskies finished with 207 yards on the ground, in addition to Horner’s 120 in the air.

Sweet Home will host Banks at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6. Banks opened its season with a 31-26 win over Cascade at home.

The Braves like to run and they are led by senior quarterback Garrett Markham (6-2, 190) “who will run every time if you let him,” Nichol said. Markham threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Nolan Hill (5-8, 170) against Cascade Friday and Nichol said tight end Joey Bonin (5-11, 180) is another dangerous receiver who’s “big and sells out on catching the ball – he’s all over the field.”

Running backs Mykah Rosa (5-6, 160) and Jerod Barger (5-8, 160) also are threats on the ground, he said.

The key to stopping the Braves, he said, will be to contain Markham and “make them run up the middle.”

“Banks has really good offense,” Nichol said, “They are very balanced. They’ll really spread and stretch us down the field. We’ve got some good defensive backs. I’m excited to see how our defensive backs respond to the coverage and challenges they’ll have for us.”

– Staff writer Scott Swanson contributed to this story.

Game Summary

Sweet Home – 0 20 14 0 – 34

Redmond – 6 6 0 12 – 24

First Quarter

R – punt return. Kick failed.

Second Quarter

SH – Brandon Keenon 15 run. Hunter Jutte kick.

R –run. Kick failed.

SH – Hunter Jutte 44 pass from Cole Horner. Jutte kick.

SH – Hunter Jutte 41 pass from Cole Horner. PAT failed.

Third Quarter

SH – Spencer Knight 1 run. Hunter Jutte pass from Cole Horner for 2-pt. conversion.

SH – Hunter Jutte 15 pass from Cole Horner. Kick failed.

Fourth Quarter

R – Run. Kick failed.

R – Run. Kick failed.

Individual Statistics

Rushing: Spencer Knight 13-95; Brandon Keenon 7-57; JT Weld 5-56.

Passing: Cole Horner 8-21-3-120, 3 touchdowns.

Receiving: Hunter Jutte 4-97, 3 touchdowns; Eric Flierl 1-20; Brandon Keenon 2-3.